Thanksgiving Greetings from an Ingrate, 2018

by JC Schildbach

I have to feed the hummingbirds.

Well, actually, I have to fill the hummingbird feeders. The hummingbirds will have to feed themselves at that point.

I should clean and fill the hummingbird feeders much more frequently than I do– it really only takes a few minutes–I mean, minus the time to make the food and wait for it to cool down— for the health of the birds, and to make sure I won’t be subject to their angry chittering each time I step outside.

Okay. I don’t know that the chittering is angry, or aimed at me.  I apparently just carry a tremendous amount of guilt about all the things I’m not getting to, because of all the other things I’m trying to get to, only a small percentage of which actually gets done.

Distractions upon distractions.

And it’s getting cold enough outside that I need to rig up the Christmas lights on the hummingbird feeders, to keep the food from freezing.

 

I don’t want to get into clichés about an attitude of gratitude, but why don’t I just say I’m thankful for the presence of so many beautiful birds around my home – and happy that I can help our own local hummingbirds make it through the winter? (The Anna’s hummingbirds hang out all year round.)

 

I was going to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this November, as a way to try and jump-start my writing again.

But after one short sprint of writing early in the month, I haven’t gotten back to it at all.

In part, work has been too draining. And my days off have been spent in other distractions, from cleaning up the Halloween decorations, to a road trip to celebrate my kid’s birthday, to binge-watching TV shows in between loads of laundry.

 

Again, not to get into any clichés about an attitude of gratitude, but why couldn’t I just say I’m happy to have the opportunity to write when I want, thankful for a job, ecstatic at the chance to go all-out for Halloween, and delighted at the opportunity for travel and screen-time with my family?

 

Ah, laundry—the ultimate distraction—never done.

So easy to generate more.

There’s always bedding and towels if you get out ahead of the clothing.

 

No attitude of gratitude clichés here, but why can’t I just say I’m happy I can do my own laundry, right here, in home, and that I have a plethora of wonderful things to wash?

 

I’ve largely been absent from my blog all year due to all manner of distractions—self-generated, as well as external.

Office upheavals and client deaths.

All manner of medical and mental health concerns rippling throughout my world.

A childish, attention-seeking buffoon in the White House, dominating the news cycle all-day, every day.

An election that seemingly started two years ago, with alternating possible hope-filled and doomsday outcomes.

 

So, about that attitude of gratitude cliché – why didn’t I just say (again) I’m glad to have gainful employment, and that everybody I know and love is at least relatively healthy (well, the ones who didn’t die), that I have the opportunity to get information from a wide range of different forms of media, and that I get to exercise my right to vote?

 

And really, anytime I sit down to write, it’s always so much easier to pop online and shop for things I don’t need, scroll through numerous online feeds and articles, and pick dumb fights with strangers and near-strangers, or perhaps family and friends…some now former friends and estranged family.

 

It’s Thanksgiving, and I should be aimed, as clichéd as it is, toward that attitude of gratitude—meaning I really should have just said that it’s great that so many of us now have access to amazing forms of technology that allow us to communicate with people around the world, or buy stuff from almost anywhere on the planet—no matter how much we might abuse that technology.

 

There are all the other annual projects, bordering on obligations.

I already mentioned the Halloween decorations.

And then there’s the ‘gardening’.

Of course, the weather this year was so strange that the plants weren’t entirely sure if they were supposed to be doing anything, and most just squeezed out a few little fruits or vegetables, although I regularly watered and fed them.

Then, in late summer, a spell of cool weather, followed by a spell of very hot weather, followed by some heavy rains further confused the plants, leading some into dormancy and others into thinking the growing season had finally arrived.

But by then, I had moved on to trying to get a jump on the Halloween decorations and decided the plants could fend for themselves.

 

Yeah, yeah, attitude, gratitude – I should be focusing on how great it is that I have a place to indulge my inner farmer and my Halloween obsession.

 

But the inspiration for this whole piece was how the competing distractions have led to, perhaps, a higher-than-usual level of chaos around here, so that I look out my window in late November and see scenes like this poor neglected fruit on the vine (not to mention me not having cut back the plants and moved the pots to a reasonable location):

Tomato sad

But then Ding Dong photo-bombed my sad tomato plants, while also barking in my ear, so I got this image, which is, I guess, more gratitude-inspiring:

Tomato Ding Dong

Anyway, I’m not sure if my forced attitude-of-gratitude conclusion is that I should be like Ding Dong and be all grateful and loud for whatever I’m doing at whatever moment, or if it is more about how I should be like Ding Dong who is always and ever himself, regardless of whatever else is going on—which, in my case, would mean I can stifle that perceived need to express some clichéd attitude of gratitude just because it’s Thanksgiving.

 

And, really, anyone who actually knows me knows I’m not exactly an ingrate.

Although I may be overly grateful for the opportunity to complain.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Advertisements

Thanksgiving Greetings from an Ingrate, 2016: Where’s the Mashed Potatoes?

by

J.C. Schildbach, LMHC

Okay…this post has nothing to do with a lack of mashed potatoes.  I just love that line.  It’s become a staple of M and my faux-complaining about, well, really any meal–not just Thanksgiving.  Not that we want mashed potatoes at every meal, but anyway…

A friend recently called me out for not being an ingrate. This via a Facebook post, wherein I was responding to her efforts at working through the 24-days-of-gratitude challenge, or whatever it’s called when you note something you’re thankful for every day throughout November until Thanksgiving. I commented that I had been planning to do the same, although “planning” is perhaps too strong a word…it had occurred to me that I could engage in that challenge, and that I had done it in the past…although, maybe not in November. I might have just chosen 24 or 25 random days, having missed the point entirely…or maybe having expanded the point out in the most glorious of ways by refusing to confine my thankfulness to some specific stretch on a calendar. At any rate, not being an ingrate perhaps takes away from these annual posts, but at least somebody gets the point…that I’m not really an ingrate.

To those who don’t know me, it might be easy to imagine I am such. I enjoy complaining–embrace complaining–as an art form. It’s performance. It’s fun. It’s pure joy, garnering accolades and laughs when in the right company—and disturbed, ‘are-you-okay?’-furrowed-brow looks when in the ‘wrong’ company.

You see, when a big portion of your work is devoted to listening, absorbing, and redirecting the misery of the world, complaining is life-saving, life-affirming, the stuff of thanks.

Or not.

It’s all a matter of perspective. Much of the ‘wrong’ company involves people in my same field, but with a vastly different view of how we need to approach life in order to receive the blessings of thanks, or the thanks of blessings, or whatever life-denying positivity they think will cancel out the darkness of the season…that same darkness our ancestors feared was the impending end of time.

ingrate-thanksgiving

Blurry and off-color…just like misplaced anger!

When I set out to write this annual exercise in ingratitude/gratitude, I tried to think of a good Thanksgiving story from my past.

As I’ve noted in previous ‘ingrate’ posts, I have very few specific childhood memories of Thanksgiving. It was just some day off from school—two days actually–where things were, perhaps, much worse than school…having to put on church clothes only to have a meal that wasn’t particularly interesting.

Perhaps my emotional deficit around Thanksgiving is that it comes between my own balls-out/dress-up/mess-up-the-house-with-monster-decorations/get-candy enthusiasm of Halloween, and the hyper-sentimentality/religious significance/songs/smells/twinkling-lights/PRESENTS!! of Christmas.

How can Thanksgiving compete with that? New Year’s doesn’t fare all that well in comparison, either. Perhaps as a child, I was too close to family, too frequently in contact with them, to realize the value in being able to meet up yet again.  Getting together with family is something that’s become far too infrequent, with siblings spread out across six states, and cousins across at least four more that I know of.

In the absence of the frequent family gathering, I have grown to love, if not the sham history of the holiday, then what the idea of the holiday represents…coming together, helping each other out, recognizing what we have, and why all those elements are potentially so great.

Again this year, my immediate family and I are going out to eat for Thanksgiving–at a favorite restaurant where we’ve enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner before. Again this year, it is a function of our work schedules. That is to say, we could request time off, but, as with every year of the last decade, I work in a 24/7 operation, and M works at a school that caters to doctors (who work in a 24/7 operation). So, we pick and choose which holidays to celebrate more or less enthusiastically.

M was insisting she wanted to make a Thanksgiving meal this year. When the idea was first proposed, I went along with it. Then, at some later time, the kid and I ganged up on her, and pointed out that she had to work the day before, and the day after, Thanksgiving, as do I.  Well, actually, I’m working the day before, the day of, and the day after Thanksgiving, which means a portion of the argument rested on what a pain it would be for me to help do the shopping and cooking and all that, while still attempting to get any sleep–have I mentioned that I work nights?  Coordinating the menu, the purchase of the food, and the preparation of the food, was far more work than we were all ultimately prepared to do, all for just the three of us.

We managed to nail down Christmas plans that would allow more time before and after that holiday to indulge in such excessive amounts of preparation and work, and still get in a fair amount of relaxation, all in the company of family. I’ll hold to my feeling that thanks shouldn’t be a chore, and that holidays should be centered around a desire to celebrate, rather than an obligation to go through the motions of celebration.

I am incredibly thankful, once again, that I have the great fortune to pay to indulge in the hospitality provided by others. And once again, I intend to tip with guilt-laden generosity.

Wherever you are today, I hope you have reason to recognize your situation as one of great fortune as well.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Thanksgiving Greetings from an Ingrate

by JC Schildbach

With all apologies to the wonderful people among my family and friends who have prepared some amazing holiday meals over the years…

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that I’ve had to learn to love…or like a lot…or maybe just kind of like. As a kid, Thanksgiving didn’t have the obvious benefits of other holidays—like Halloween (monsters and candy), Christmas (presents and flashing lights), New Years Eve/Day (getting to stay up late and listen to the top-whatever countdown of the year’s/decade’s/history of rock’s top hits), July 4th (explosions, fire, and kickass food prepared with fire). I could go on, but I don’t know if even adding fire could really make Thanksgiving all that interesting.

Way back when, the only really good thing about Thanksgiving was getting a four-day weekend, which was pretty weird, anyway. I mean, really, why put the holiday on a Thursday? If it was a celebration of Thor, that would be cool. Hey, maybe that’s the key to making Thanksgiving interesting—Thor. Well, probably not.  But so far the best thing anybody has come up with is to add in a bunch of football games, which, as far as plans for making things interesting goes, is shaky at best.

And, sure, I liked turkey-based art projects. And I liked watching the parade with the giant balloon cartoon characters, but then there was that whole thing of having to sit through multiple marching bands and other weirdness and commercials in between the giant, inflatable cartoon characters. How much patience did these people expect 8-year-olds to have? And let’s face it, not even Ethyl Merman loves a parade, no matter how enthusiastically she belts out that musical lie.

Overall, Thanksgiving just felt like an excuse for adults to make kids put on clothes they should never have to wear outside of a church, forcing them to be itchy and bored for hours on end, while waiting for a meal of foods nobody really wanted to eat anyway. I blame Thanksgiving for tilting me toward a mild obsession with mashed potatoes. Peppermint Patty hollering, “Where’s the mashed potatoes?” is something I relate to entirely too well.  My anxiety over the thought of attending a Thanksgiving dinner that has all the usual stuff, but no mashed potatoes…unreal.

As far as the rest of the Thanksgiving fare goes…Turkey—sure, that’s fine, I guess. Cranberries—I like them well enough now, but as a kid, I just couldn’t help but think they tasted all wrong. They were berries, but they weren’t really sweet. They just should have been different somehow. And speaking of sweet-and-should’ve-been-different, there are those damn sweet potatoes. Who wants to eat that? It’s brown sugar and something that’s kind of like a potato, but kind of like a carrot, and squishy, and…uggh, I don’t even wanna think about it.

And then there’s green bean casserole. Actually, I quite like green bean casserole. But nobody in my family ever made the stuff.

All the appeal and excitement of a traditional Thanksgiving meal, straight out of the box.

All the appeal and excitement of a traditional Thanksgiving meal, straight out of the box.

On top of the conspicuous absence of green been casserole, there was always some heinous cornbread dressing—chock full of eggs. Did I mention that I’m allergic to eggs? So, yeah, it’s great to have a meal that involves plenty of unappealing food, including at least one awful food with plenty of deadly toxins—toxins aimed only at me!! Haven’t you people heard of Stove Top? It’s much easier to make, and much less deadly.  While we’re, on the egg tip…there were always weird, unappealing things like Waldorf salads, slathered in eggy mayonnaise.  There were pumpkin pies and pecan pies–eggs, eggs, eggs!!

And, well, just forget the rest of that food, okay?  I’m already in danger of going fetal here.

Since I’m an adult now, more or less, and I get to make at least part of the decision about what’s going to happen on holidays, we eat out on Thanksgiving—every Thanksgiving since 2010. This started out as a matter of practicality. I had been doing shift work for a few years already at that point—jobs that involved round-the-clock coverage, with holiday time off at a premium.

So, doing the whole, make-a-big-meal-and-then-take-off-for-work, or work-all-day-and-then-come-home-for-a-meal thing wasn’t exactly conducive to Thanksgiving harmony, especially when my wife had to take the lead on the meal with little support (hey, I took care of the shopping), and I would either be at work or asleep prior to going to work. Accepting invitations to other friends’ Thanksgiving meals was also complicated by my work schedule—so the wife and kid might go to a friend’s holiday meal without me (which was fine with me, but my wife felt bad about it).

To be sure, my wife is an amazing cook. But traditional American cuisine, and traditional American holiday cuisine, is not her forte’. She made some wonderful holiday meals (that whole incident with the Reynolds roast-in turkey bag not withstanding), but wasn’t always able to tell if things had turned out successfully, since the things she was making were a bit foreign to her. And given her highly-self-critical nature, no amount of reassurance was going to make her happy. So, forget it—let somebody else stress about the meals.

Most years, Thanksgiving out involves just my wife, my daughter, and me—although last year we had the pleasure of booking a party big enough to get us a private room at Preservation Kitchen—which is a pretty amazing place—and which was my favorite Thanksgiving meal since we’ve been doing the restaurant thing. I spent the bulk of the meal sampling beers (after a dirty gin martini opener) and conversing with a second grader. And since he and I have a similar sense of humor, it worked out pretty darn well.

I’m guessing most U.S. citizens feel obligated to be involved in some family-oriented, meal-centric Thanksgiving hassle, because that’s what you’re made to do growing up. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to let some weird sense of obligation ruin a perfectly good (if boring) holiday, that should be about things we’re thankful for. I’ll just say, I’m extremely thankful to be able to blow a few hundred bucks on a nice meal out, rather than blowing a few hundred bucks on a bunch of stuff that we now have to prepare ourselves amidst a bunch of other logistical complications.

Today, we’re hitting Palomino in downtown Seattle. Haven’t ever eaten there. Maybe I’ll post an update so you’ll know if it was at all satisfying. Maybe I won’t. I refuse to feel overly obligated by all this.

So, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! If you’re eating at somebody’s home, be nice to the hosts and steer clear of conversations about religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin. If you’re eating out, tip well—really, really well.